The owners of RuBen Dairy in rural Grant County, Wash., were pleased with their agri-pump immediately after its first use, and they expressed their gratitude to the organization that they said made it possible.
“We wouldn’t have this if not for the conservation district,” said Henry Benthem, co-owner with Ranie Rupard.
The district paid half of the cost of the agri-pump — $25,500.
They have a large lagoon with a 3 million- to 4 million-gallon capacity, which holds manure before it is spread onto their fields as fertilizer. As they pump this manure into the lagoon, the solids fall to the bottom, where they build up and fill the lagoon.
“This is a problem,” said Rupard.
Actually, it’s one of two problems.
If solids are allowed to build up, they will reduce the lagoon’s capacity. Also, if only the liquids, which lack the nutrients of the solids, are be sprayed onto the fields, the crops could suffer.
Agri-pumps keep the contents of lagoons in suspension so both liquids and solids are sprayed on the fields.
Marie Lotz and Lyle Stoltman of the Grant County Conservation District said that this is an example of the cost-sharing programs that brought their organization together with local farmers.
Stoltman said the district has helped other local dairies solve their lagoon problems in the past, by paying for half of large tire scrapers that drag semi-solids from lagoons. The cost of the tire scrapers is only $1,200, but RuBen Dairy could not use one because it would damage the lining of the lagoon.
Benthem and Rupard, who grew up in Snoqualmie Valley on separate dairies and partnered on their new dairy, were in a difficult position. They wanted to get the most out of their lagoon, but they lacked funds for the necessary equipment.
Stoltman said that he is glad the district could help.
“These guys have done really well at irrigation water and nutrient management,” he said. “They want to do a good job as dairymen and stewards of the land.”
Through cost sharing, the district has worked with around 30 local dairies on a variety of projects.
“Quality water helps everyone,” he said. He added that the district is looking for additional ways to help local dairies, farms and the public.